Authors: Kat Martin
“Do not be angry,” he said. “I overheard some of your conversation with your brother.”
Her head turned toward him. “You were eavesdropping?”
“I have always had good ears.”
Her lips twitched, nice full lips a pretty shade of pink. “I suppose it wasn't your fault,” she said. “We should have gone upstairs, but Rudy was so upsetâ¦.” She shook her head. “I am worried about him.”
“He is in trouble with the police.”
“They consider him a suspect in the Covent Garden murders. But Rudy would never hurt anyone. He is simply not that sort.”
“I know little of your brother, but if there is any way I can help, you only need ask.”
Her golden-brown eyebrows drew together. “Why would you help? You don't even like me.”
He didn't really
her. She just had a way of annoying him. “You are Krista and Coralee's friend. They are my friends, so I will help.”
She looked up at him with those big tawny eyes and the air in his lungs refused to come out.
“Thank you for the offer, but I don't need your help. My brother is innocent. In time, the police will find the man who is guilty of the crime.”
He nodded, hoping she was right. She might annoy him but he wouldn't want to see her hurt, and it was clear how much she cared about her brother.
“He is a good sort,” she said. “Lately Rudy has lost his way, but in time, he will find the right path.”
“It is good he has you to worry about him.”
She managed a smile. “Thank you.”
The gratitude in her eyes made his chest feel tight. He had the strangest urge to reach out and touch her, erase the worry lines from her forehead. It was madness. As the lady had said, he didn't even truly like her.
At least he didn't like the sort of woman she was, the kind who worked in an office instead of staying home to tend a husband and family. The kind who believed she was equal to a man. Leif had married a woman like that, and though Thor had grown to care for Krista greatly, still, she was too independent, too outspoken in her views, not the sort he would want to take to wife.
Where he came from, women worked as hard as men, but they always knew their place, knew they were put on earth to serve a man. A lesson Lindsey Graham would never learn.
Unless, of course, some man was fool enough to try to bring her in hand.
He ignored the little thread of interest that stirred, as well as the surge of lust he felt at the notion of her serving his needs. He scoffed. One kiss and she would likely run off screaming. Passion was probably as foreign to her as the notion that a man should be master of his house.
Shaking his head, Thor left Lindsey to mull over her problems and returned to his duties in the back room of the office. The rest of the week, he would be working for his brother down at the dock, unloading the cargo that had just come in, reloading the ships that would sail off to British island ports.
Mayhap tomorrow night, he would pay a call on the ladies at the Red Door, a house of pleasure he visited on occasion.
Across the office, he caught sight of Lindsey. As she bent her head to study the paper on her desk, her honey hair parted, exposing the soft white skin at the nape of her neck.
Thor's groin tightened. For reasons he was at a loss to explain, whenever she was near, the girl left him craving a woman. He thought of the Red Door again and vowed it was time to make a stop.
Leif Draugr stood on the quay above the dock, watching his brother's crew unloading and reloading the ships that had just come into port. A stiff wind whipped the Union Jack flying atop the masts, and seagulls swooped down, screeching as they soared toward the choppy blue water.
Leif loved the sight, loved the feeling of accomplishment whenever he gazed out over his growing fleet of ships. Since his arrival in England, he had built Valhalla Shipping into an extremely successful enterprise, and though his brother refused to take any of the credit, Leif knew Thor had had a great deal to do with the company's success.
He watched his brother laughing with a couple of the men as they strained to the task of hoisting a cargo net loaded with household supplies for delivery to the northern islands off the Scottish coast.
His brother was amazingly good at handling the men. He had a way of earning their trust and admiration, a way of making them want to do a good job for him. Perhaps it was because he often pitched in to help, no matter that he was the boss, no matter how dirty the job was.
Though Leif and his brother both believed in hard work and accomplishment and both loved the sea, in a number of ways they were as different as their coloring, Leif fair-skinned and blond, Thor swarthy and dark-haired. While Leif had done everything in his power to learn what was necessary to fit into British society, Thor had learned little more than the basics.
He could read and write, of course, and he could speak the language with even less accent than Leif, but he refused to wear anything but the simplest garments, had never attended a ball, and laughed at the notion of what he called prancing around a dance floor.
Though he had no thought of returning to Draugr Island where they had been raised, he didn't like living in the city. Instead, he worked two jobs in an effort to save money to buy a farm in the country. Leif had assured him his interest in the shipping line would eventually earn him enough to get the land he wanted, but Thor wanted to earn the money on his own. He seemed to have something to prove, seemed to be searching for something that remained elusive.
Leif believed at least part of what his brother sought was the very thing Leif had found in the wife and son he adored. Each day he prayed that the gods would bless Thor as he had been blessed and lead him to his life mate. Perhaps then the restlessness would ease and Thor would find the contentment that seemed just out of his reach.
In truth, they were different in a number of ways and yet deep down they were the same, men with strong beliefs in loyalty and duty, honor and courage. Leif would trust his brother with his life and he knew Thor felt the same.
Leif looked toward the dock where his brother stood with his legs splayed, his dark hair blowing in the wind. Thor glanced toward the quay and spotted him, smiled and waved, and Leif waved back.
In time, Thor's mate would appear. His future was surely as fated as Leif's had been. The gods would not fail him, Leif believed. He was only a little worried as he headed down to the dock. Only a little worried as he caught the slightly yearning look on his brother's face.
indsey ignored the hum of activity in the office and tried to concentrate on finishing the revisions on her article. The gazette went to press tomorrow and she still had a good bit left to do.
She looked up as the bell above the door rang, saw two sour-faced men walk into the office. The typesetter, Bessie Briggs, a stocky woman with salt-and-pepper hair, walked up to greet them.
“May I help ye?”
The larger of the men reached into the pocket of his dark brown tailcoat and pulled out what appeared to be some kind of credentials. Lindsey realized they were policemen and a jolt of worry spiked down her spine.
“I'm Constable Bertram and this is Constable Archer. We'd like to speak with one of the employees, a Miss Lindsey Graham.”
Bessie's eyes widened. She turned and pointed at Lindsey, who stiffened in her chair. “That's Miss Graham. I'll tell her ye wish ta see her.”
“That won't be necessary.” The men started toward her. The one named Bertram that her brother had mentioned was larger, with piercing black eyes and thinning brown hair. Archer was short and stout, had bushy eyebrows and a pocked complexion. At the back of the room, she caught a glimpse of Thor, who had moved within earshot as the men walked toward her desk.
Like his brother, he seemed to be a protective sort of man. She told herself to tell him to go away, that the policemen were none of his concern, but she couldn't quite summon the will. Instead, he propped his wide shoulders against the wall and simply watched her, making it clear he was there in case she needed him.
It was ridiculous. The man wouldn't know the first thing about British law or what to do with two police constables.
She turned her attention to the men, who arrived at her desk, their hats in their hands. “May I help you?”
“My name isâ”
“Yes, constables Bertram and Archer.”
“That is correct,” Bertram said. “We would like to ask you a few questions, Miss Graham. Perhaps there is someplace we might be private.”
She didn't want to be alone with them. She had no idea why. Everyone but Thor was busily working and paying them little attention. Besides, even if someone overheard, the employees at
Heart to Heart
were a close-knit group and nothing that happened ever stayed secret very long.
“You can say what you have to say right here.”
Bertram nodded, moving strands of his thinning brown hair. “All right, if that is your wish. As you are surely aware, your brother has fallen under police scrutiny in the matter of the Covent Garden murders. As he seems unable to tell us his whereabouts on the nights of either of the murders, we are hoping that you might be able to shed some light on the subject.”
Her pulse kicked up. She told herself to stay calm. “My brother is a grown man. He goes about as he pleases. I can tell you that even if he happened to be in the area those nights, he is not a man with the sort of temperament to commit a brutal murder.”
“Are you aware he knew both women?”
“He mentioned it, yes.”
“Are you also aware that he was seen in the company of Miss Phoebe Carter, the latest victim, the very night she was killed?”
The blood slowly drained from her face. “Thatâ¦that isn't possible.”
“Your brother's friendâ¦” He glanced down at a scrap of paper he pulled from the pocket of his coat. “A gentleman named Thomas Boggs, says that Mr. Graham left his flat with the woman and did not return to the party.”
Dear God, Rudy was with the murder victim the night she was killed? Why hadn't he told her? She tried to remember exactly what he had said,
I hadâ¦umâ¦seen her shortly before.
Great heavens, she had thought he meant days, not hours! Lindsey said nothing, just sat there trying to keep her emotions carefully controlled.
“I realize we are talking about your brother,” Constable Bertram said, “but the law is the law and if there is something you know that you are not telling usâ”
Lindsey shot to her feet. “I know my brother is innocent of any wrongdoing. In factâ¦heâhe couldn't have been the man who killed Miss Carter because he came home early that night. He must have dropped the woman off somewhere and returned directly to the house.”
Constable Archer lifted a bushy eyebrow. “Are you certain of this, miss? Were you awake when he came in?”
“Why, yes, I was. We spoke briefly but he had been drinking and I suggested he had best go up to bed.”
“No blood on his clothes? Nothing that might have looked suspicious?”
“Not in the least.”
Bertram pierced her with a glare. “What time was it?”
“What time?” she repeated dully.
“That is correct. At what hour did your brother come home?”
Dear God, what time had her brother left the party with the woman? She had no possible way to know. “Sometime after midnight.”
“And you remember this particular night becauseâ¦?”
“Because it was the night of the Kentwells' ball.” That much was true. She had come to work the next day and read about the murder in the paperâthe one Thor had
Which was probably the reason she recalled. Thor wasn't easy to forget.
“There are laws against aiding a criminal, Miss Graham,” Constable Bertram warned. “If you are lying, you will only make matters worse for your brother.”
“And extremely difficult for yourself,” Archer chimed in.
She straightened. “My brother would never hurt anyone, much less do murder. That is all I have to say on the subject and I would appreciate it if you would now please leave.”
She didn't see Thor approach but suddenly he was there, towering over the policemen. “Miss Graham has told you all she knows.”
“And who might you be?” asked Bertram.
“I am a friendâone who can see that you have upset the lady.”
“If Miss Graham is a friend, it would be wise to advise her to be truthful in regard to her brother.”
Thor said nothing. The quieter he was, the more intimidating he appeared.
“Good afternoon, gentlemen,” Lindsey said.
“Good afternoon, Miss Graham.” Bertram settled his beaver hat over his thinning hair and he and Archer disappeared out the door.
Thor looked at her hard. “Do not tell me you could have handled them by yourself.”
“I did just fine, thank you.”
“You were lying and they knew it. By the gods, Lindsey, you cannot help your brother by making up tales that are clearly not true.”
“I was buying time. In a couple of days, I will tell them I remembered incorrectly, that I got the dates mixed up, but not yet. I need to find out who killed those women. That is the only way my brother is going to be safe.”
Thor's blue eyes sharpened. “If the police can't find the killer, how will you?”
“I'm a newspaper reporter, am I not? It is my job to dig up information. That is precisely what I am going to do.”
“You are a woman, Lindsey, whether you like it or not. Two women have already been killed.”
“I'm going to help my brotherâwhether
like it or not!” Turning away from him, she picked up her reticule and started for the door.
Thor caught her arm. “You are going home?”
“Is your carriage out front?”
“I usually walk to work this time of year.”
“You are upset and worried. I will see you get home safely.”
She opened her mouth to protest but already he was urging her toward the door, grabbing her cloak off the coat tree, leading her outside and down the front steps. He raised one big hand and a hansom cab jerked to a halt just a few feet away. Thor helped her climb in, settled himself on the seat beside her, and the driver clucked the horse into motion.
“You are a troublesome female,” Thor said.
“And you are a meddlesome brute.”
His jaw tightened. “An
She cast him a glance. “An
Thor just grunted and leaned back in the seat. Lindsey tried not to notice the powerful shoulder pressing against her, the faint, masculine scent of soap and man. She tried not to be grateful that he was taking her home when she had just lied to the police.
When, instead of her brother, she might be the one who wound up going to prison.
Aunt Delilah was pacing the drawing room when Lindsey got home.
“Lindsey! Thank God you are here! The police just left. What in the name of heaven is going on?”
Lindsey sighed. “I am sorry, Aunt Dee, I should have told you. I suppose I was hoping the entire affair would simply fade away and you would never be the wiser.”
“The entire affair? By that you are referring to the murder of two young women, for which the authorities suspect your brother?”
Lindsey caught hold of her aunt's pale hand and they both sat down on the sofa. “He didn't do it. You know Rudy would never do anything like that.”
“Of course not. Oh, dear God, I wish your father were here.”
Not for the first time in her life, so did Lindsey. From the time she was a child, her parents never seemed to be around when she needed them. “Well, he isn't and so the task of clearing Rudy's name is left to you and me.”
“Whatever do you mean?”
“The police can't seem to find the real killer so we must do it for them.”
“Are you mad? You don't know the first thing about finding a murderer.”
“I imagine it involves digging up information. That is something I know how to do.”
Aunt Dee shook her head, moving the glossy black curls on her shoulders. “I don't know, Lindseyâ¦. If anything went wrong, if something happened to you, your parents would never forgive me.”
“How do you think they are going to feel when they find out their son has been tossed into prison for murder?”
Aunt Dee groaned.
“I am only going to ask a few questions, see what I can find out. I'll speak to Rudy again, try to discover more about his connection to the women. Maybe I can find out where he was when the women were killed. That would give him an alibi and he would no longer be a suspect.”
Aunt Dee pinned her with a glare. “That policeman with the bushy eyebrows told me you said Rudy was here the night of the murder. That, dear girl, is complete and utter rubbish. Sooner or later, the police will discover the truth and you and Rudy will
be in trouble.”
Lindsey ignored a shiver. “At the time, I couldn't think of anything else to do. In a couple of days, I'll tell them I was mistaken. That will give us a bit of time, at least.”
“I hope you know what you are doing, dearest.”
“So do I, Aunt Dee, so do I.”
Lindsey spoke to Rudy the following morning. He was quite sober and fairly subdued. It was a pleasant change. Rudy had told her he had met Molly Springfield, the first victim murdered six months ago, at a drinking establishment in Covent Garden. He couldn't remember which one. Aside from a brief assignation in one of the rooms upstairs, he'd had nothing more to do with the woman.
“And the second victimâMiss Carter?”
“I told you, I met her at a party at Boggs's town house. She was an actress in Drury Lane.”
“Why didn't you tell me you were with her the night she was killed?”
A guilty flush rose in his cheeks. “I told you I'd seen her recently.”
“I never presumed you meant
“At the time, well, it didn't seem important.”
Lindsey rolled her eyes.
All in all, the conversation revealed nothing new. Rudy had been so drunk he had no idea what had happened on either of the evenings the women were killed.
She needed more information. She needed to speak to Tom Boggs and other of Rudy's so-called friends to see if anyone might have a clue as to where her brother had been the night of the murders. She needed to find out exactly where the murders were committed and interview people in the area to see if anyone had seen anything that might turn out to be a clue.
In the past several days, she had discreetly been nosing around, trying to ferret out any gossip. Nothing new had turned up. So far no one knew that Rudy was a suspect, or if they did, they were keeping silent about it. In time the information would surface. She had no idea what would happen once it did.
She was sitting behind her desk, making a list of things she wanted to do when Krista walked up.
“Anything new with your brother?”